Further Evidence of the Benefits of Exercise
> 10/25/2007 2:10:36 PM

Over the years, research has shown that when it comes to losing weight, exercise is one of the most important things we can do. Exercise burns calories, and it also reduces appetite, fights stress, and takes up time that we could have spent sitting on the couch snacking. Multiple studies presented at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society provide even more evidence of the beneficial nature of exercise and demonstrate that regular exercise is one of the most important things we can do to lose weight.

One study, led by John Jakicic, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, involved 170 overweight or obese women. The women were instructed on how to maintain a healthier diet and encouraged to increase the amount of physical activity they engage in every week by 150-300 minutes. The women also received encouraging phone calls from a health professional at least twice a month. While some women were able to lose up to 7% of their weight simply by changing their diet, those who lost 10% or more of their weight, and maintained their weight loss, changed their diets and also exercised. Most lost the weight by taking brisk walks. For participants, most of whom lost the greatest amount of weight within the first six months, exercise was as much a way of preventing further weight gain as it was a way of shedding pounds. The researchers explain that people who diet stick to the regulations most closely when they first begin. Dieters will inevitably cheat over time, and exercise is an important way to ensure that we can afford to eat a piece of cake here and there.

A similar study, also headed by Jakicic, involved 209 adults, averaging 45 years of age, who were 15-29 pounds overweight. The subjects were divided into three groups. The first group received general exercise information recommending 30 minutes of daily exercise, while the second group was advised to engage in physical activities for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This group also attended weekly classes on the importance of exercise. The third group was advised to exercise 40-60 minutes a day and also attended weekly classes about exercise. All participants were advised to eat healthy food, but they were also told not to restrict their calories, and about 75% exercised by taking brisk walks. After eighteen months, 40% of the participants had gained weight, an average of 7 pounds, while 60% had lost weight, also an average of 7 pounds. Those who did not engage in regular exercise were most likely to gain weight, while those who engaged in regular exercise, especially those who engaged in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, were most likely to lose weight.

With the problem of obesity in America, studies like these may serve to emphasize the facts that we have all heard before. Following a structured diet may help, but for most of us, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly—together—are effective ways to lose weight.

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